CHAPTER 8: Take Me Back (First draft. Final version in the works)
Orion had run into the basement very quickly, confusing his guests. Bucky and Peach Cobbler both knew that when it came to Orion, trouble usually followed things like this. Whatever was going on in his head was most likely worth seeing, so the two Crusaders chased their friend into the former-lab. Where the basement once was the headquarters for Twilight Sparkle's scientific discoveries, it was not used as much as it once was and had now become more of an archive of data and experiments rather than an active station. Its purpose, however, did not alter the feeling of wonder and amazement the two ponies always experienced when rummaging through them. Shelf after shelf was filled to the brim with books of many colors and sizes and countless documents laid organized in drawers and bins before them. Regardless of the room's organization, there was not as much space left, but Twilight always refused to get rid of any of it (to the dismay of her husband).
It was her past-time and looking back at her old works often brought a smile to her face, but not nearly as much as watching her daughter continue the Sparkle legacy. While looking around, Peach Cobbler spotted a paper laying alone in a corner, hidden behind some of the shelves. She pulled it out and wiped the dust off of it, inspecting its contents. It was an old formula that must have been dropped and forgotten long ago. Inspecting it closely, she looked at the paper to see a spell that had been designed by Twilight herself to teleport more accurately than the previous spell. Notes were written all over, nearly making it nearly unreadable to the filly.
"Whoa," she said with wide aqua eyes, "that's cool."
Orion, on the other hand, had grown accustomed to his mother's work and ignored it, moving on to what he had come for; the dagger. Right before him, on top of a shelf, laid his birthday gift. It sat out in the open without anything hiding or restraining it. It perfect for the taking, but to his friends' surprise, he did not touch it.
"What's that?" Bucky asked about the mysterious weapon.
"A present from Spike."
"Spike gave you a sword?" he said in shock. "A real sword! To you! Did anypony else not think that was a bad idea?"
"Laugh it up, Bucky." Orion said, ignoring the giggling being held back by his friends. "If you're done laughing, could you guys help me get it down?"
Peach Cobbler flew up to the edge of the shelf and inspected the weapon closely. It shimmered radiantly despite remaining fully still. Each jewel on the hilt sparkled and shone like stars in the midnight sky. Their spectrum of colors dazzled in ways that would make a fashionista like Rarity faint from admiration. It was truly a marvel of design.
"What's the big deal?" she said with a raised eyebrow. "All I need to do is pick it up."
"Go for it." Orion said with a smirk. "Surely you can reach it."
Peach scoffed at him and reached for the handle. She pulled lightly, expecting an easy lifting motion, but the dagger was heavier than she expected. Readjusting her grip, she pulled again, this time with two hooves. Once more, it remained flat on the shelf, completely unmoved. Peach tried one more time, this time pulling with all of her might, even using her wings for extra effort. Again the dagger laid still. Peach eventually gave up and sat on the table flustered and tried to catch her breath.
"What's the big idea?" she said, frustrated. "How is this even possible?"
"My mom put a spell on it." Orion said, rolling his eyes.
"How did you know? I don't see any magic."
Orion began going through one of the labeled cabinets and huffed.
"Trust me," he said, "I know my mom. If she says I'm grounded from something, she means it."
Orion searched the cabinets for a while by hoof, but realized it would take some time.
"Help me look in the t's," he said to his companions, "and tell me what you find."
Closing his eyes for a moment, his horn glowed and lifted several files up into the air. Bucky and Peach began looking around. By the looks of the lack of alphabetization, it appeared that Andromeda had been using this section of the archive recently. While never "messy" per se, she tended to gravitate to "organized chaos."
"Telepathy drafts and theories?"
"Nope. Not that one."
"Twilight's secret cookie recipe?"
Peach Cobbler and Bucky stared at the file for a bit and then at each other.
"Later." they said together.
"Aha! Found it!" Orion exclaimed, holding up the document with pride. "Time Travel!"
"That's it?" Peach said in surprise. "That's what we're down here for? Your mom's old experiment?"
"Ah thought it wasn't used anymore fer some reason." Bucky added.
Orion continued to read the manuscript, eyes not moving from the page.
"The old spell was unpredictable, but fortunately for me, the book was an original and my parents own the only copy. Andromeda recently improved the old spell with a safer one."
Peach rested her back against the table and tapped the notes with interest.
"So what are we doing with it? We're not time traveling on your birthday, are we?"
"Why not?" Orion asked.
"Cause we don't know a thing about it! Do you even have the magic to pull it off?"
"That's why I've got this." Orion grinned, pulling out the Lotus stone that Radiance had given him earlier. "Remember when Radiance used it to magnify her magic?"
"Her demonstration gave me an idea. Since time travel needs a lot of power, I'll use the stone to strengthen my magic for the spell."
"Will that be enough?" Peach asked, scratching her head at the formulas on the pages.
"Sure. I'm pretty good at magic for my age."
"But don't ya think it's a bit dangerous doing this without permission?" Bucky added. "What if something goes wrong? What if we get in trouble?"
"We won't get in trouble, guys. We're not even going to go far back in time. All I'm going to do is take us back a few hours and tell my past self not to get in trouble with the dagger. That way I can enjoy my present and we'll come right back. Easy!"
Bucky and Peach pondered his plan for a while. Both thought it was a bad idea, but the curiosity of time travel was too much. Orion was notorious for his lack of foresight, but this plan actually seemed somewhat reasonable. Surely going back a few hours couldn't hurt. With a nod to each other, they sighed and gave in.
"Fine," Peach said, breaking the silence, "we'll go with you."
A glimmer of an adventurer shone in Orion's eyes before he turned his attention to the formulas. While quite complex, they followed a pattern that could be imitated with high concentration. Orion's genes handed down from Twilight, however, gave him an edge, even though magic was not his talent. While still very raw, his magical potential was precocious and even teenager level.
"Nothin' ventured, nothin' gained, ah guess." Bucky said to himself.
Lifting the Lotus stone, Orion prepared himself for the process.
"I need you guys to hold this stuff in place for me. I've heard the newer spells are very windy."
Peach Cobbler and Bucky ran around the room and put some of the loose papers and more fragile items to the side so they wouldn't be damaged. Orion's horn began to glow brighter. Static electricity crackled and popped, making his mane stand up even more than it already did. A small gust rustled through the lab, gaining strength while Orion charged his power. Beakers began shaking, clinking, and rattling lightly, spilling some of their contents. Despite the mild destruction, Orion was collected and confident in his ability.
"It's working!" he yelled. "I'm doing it!"
Suddenly, without warning, a sudden burst of magic shot through his horn, aggressively increasing in power. The breeze turned violent, throwing books off of their shelves and scattering papers everywhere. Peach and Bucky panicked and ran around the room, trying to prevent the mess. It was to no avail.
"Dead!" Bucky yelled over the growing noise, clutching on to the fragile items, "We are so dead!"
The room was becoming a certified wind tunnel. Peach pushed the hair out of her eyes and noticed the beakers were freezing. Little by little, ice crystals spread across the glass, spreading cracks throughout the small vials. A few seconds later, they shattered and spilled onto the tables.
"Is it this supposed to happen like this?" Peach yelled to Orion.
"I don't know! I don't think so!"
"Did you follow the formula correctly?"
The room was being tossed around even more. The wind, now reaching high speed, was too powerful for the three ponies to worry about the items. Now they were fighting to stay on their feet.
"Of course I did!" Orion yelled angrily. "I've got it all right here! I remember Andi telling me everything! The stance is correct, my willpower is there, and I....."
Orion's pupils shrunk rapidly from realization. His face grimaced and turned pale, as if he had seen a ghost.
"The safety formula!" he yelled aloud. "I forgot the safety formula!"
Bucky was now holding on to a wall, clinging on for his life. Though his eyelids were closed to shield his eyes from the wind, he turned his head towards the direction of his friend's voice.
"Are you kidding me?!?! Well don't just stand there! Stop the spell!"
Orion tried to halt the process, but was unable to. Trying again, he put all of his strength into it, but he could not do it.
"I can't! Something is keeping me from stopping it!"
"Get rid of the stone!" Peach yelled from above. Her pegasus wings were keeping her stationary in the air, but the wind was making it difficult.
Orion tried to remove the stone, but couldn't. Something sticky was on his hooves, preventing him from letting go.
"The glue!" he yelled. "The glue from Bucky's present hardened! I can't take it off!"
A light shone at the tip of his horn and began to grow, engulfing the entire room in white light while the three crusaders fought to keep their eyes open to see what was going on. Slowly, the ball of energy grew until it enveloped the entire room and spread across the house. A portal appeared before them, unlike anything Twilight or Andromeda had ever written about, and sucked the friends inside of it. As they plummeted through the light-filled vortex, the three Cutie Mark Crusaders screamed out of terror.
Andromeda's head throbbed with pain with every heartbeat pulsing through her veins and every breath feeling short and raspy. She gasped for air, inhaling hard and desperately. Oxygen filled her lungs, causing her to cough violently like she once did when she grew very ill as a filly. She continued to breathe heavy as the excessively bright world faded, replacing its white aura with the spinning hues of her surroundings. Birds called above her, echoing their calls in her ears. Their shrieks felt like they were screaming inside her head. She groaned from the pain and clutched her aching ears and closed her eyes. Her mind felt like the world was spinning and she held on to the ground as if she was trying not to be flung into space. Laying there for a few minutes, she shook off some of her delusional condition and opened her eyes. There were trees above her; lots of trees.
"Whashappening?" she whispered silently to herself.
She was still delirious, but even in her state could she tell she was no longer home. This was somewhere else entirely. Willing her legs to move, she finally stood on all fours and looked around. She was alone, stuck in the middle of a familiar forest.
"Everfree." she mumbled to herself, still feeling nauseous. "How did I get here?"
Her mind was blank and her ears still rang, but she was aware now and recovering. Focusing all of her mental energy, she tried to remember what happened.
"There was a light. Electricity. A gust of wind. And...."
She knew what had happened.
"No, no, no," she said to herself, regaining her voice and energy. "It can't be. He wouldn't. He's not capable of it!"
A feeling of panic shot through her. Her leg was hurt. It wasn't too bad, but the stinging kept her attention, causing her to tremble lightly while she looked around for any sight of her brother or her friends.
"Orion!" she called out. "Peach? Bismarck? Radiance? Is anyone there?"
Only the sounds of the birds responded. She was alone, or at least for the moment. She began to walk, hoping to find somepony. For several minutes, her calls remained unheeded until eventually, in the distance, she could see leaves rustling. Andromeda took off towards them with the best of her ability and called out again.
"Berry? Cherry? Anypony?"
A voice rasped through the plantlife. It was male.
"Ugh, not so loud. My ears feel like they're going to explode."
"Tempest!" Andromeda gasped in relief. "Thank Celestia you're okay. Are you hurt?"
Tempest groaned and rolled off of his side. He was clutching his left wing which was burnt from the sudden flash. Andromeda looked at it with panicked eyes.
"Your wing!" she cried.
Tempest exhaled and saw the look of fright in her yellow eyes. Forcing a smile, he tried to calm her.
"Hey, I'm invincible, remember? I'll walk it off."
"You can't fly?" Andromeda asked in a worried tone.
"Okay," he said, chuckling aloud, "so I'm near-invincible. I'll be fine. Help me up, could ya?"
Andromeda wasn't convinced, but she was relieved his condition wasn't too serious. Helping him up to his feet, Andromeda took a look at the wound. Some of his beautiful feathers were entirely burned off.
"Ah!" he cried, flinching in pain. "Don't touch it!"
"It looks bad, Tempest. We need to get that looked at."
"First we need to find out where we are, or are you thinking the same thing I am?"
"That we're near Zecora's den? Yes."
"All questions on how we got here aside, I think we need to drop by and get some medical help. Your leg looks hurt as well."
"I'm fine, Tempest," Andromeda said, bending her knee. "It's just some bruises and scratches. Come on, we need to get going. Maybe Zecora can help us find the rest."
"Don't forget me!" a small voice "yelled" softly.
Tempest and Andromeda looked around, searching for the origin of the voice. The green plantlife of the forest hid the unknown spectator.
The two ponies looked down to see a tiny Flora, hanging on to a flower; a poison joke flower. The puny pegasus was not only small, but a glowing green color, making her look like a firefly.
"Flora?" Tempest exclaimed in shock. "Is that you?"
"Yes, it's me. Help me, guys! I don't want to be like this anymore!" she squeaked pitifully.
Tempest picked up his frightened friend with his good wing and placed her on his back. She clung to his neck tightly, not letting go for anything. Andromeda walked ahead in the direction of Zecora's and stopped.
"I think this forest looks somewhat familiar. If I'm right, we can get help that way."
"Sounds good to me!" the tiny Flora said. "The sooner I go back to normal, the better."
The three ponies made their way to the supposed house. The forest looked so different from the one they knew, but something about it was unmistakably Everfree. The way the trees stood, the flowers and plantlife on the ground, and the limited light shining through the thick canopy of the treetops were unique. A few minutes of silence passed as they made their way to the old hut until Flora broke it.
"How did we end up in the forest?" Flora asked Andromeda, thinking her friend had a clue. "The last thing I remember was Orion's party. Then everything was loud and windy."
Andromeda shook her head. Orion had some explaining to do.
"That's what I intend to find out. I think I know what happened."
"Whoa now," Tempest said, stopping in his tracks, "are you saying that Orion got in over his head with a magic spell?"
"What did he do?"
Andromeda said nothing but continued to stare ahead.
"Andromeda," Tempest repeated, "what did Orion do?"
Trotting up to his friend, he saw what she was gawking at. His mouth dropped and his eyes widened. The old Zecora hut was no longer there. Instead, it looked brand new and in a wonderful condition that hadn't been seen in a while. In fact, they hadn't seen it look this good since they were foals.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!"